Bolivia, NC Airliner Crashes In Woodlands, Jan 1960

Bolivia NC  Plane wreckage 1-6-1960.jpg



Bolivia, N. C. (AP) -- A National Airlines night coach flying non-stop from New York to Miami crashed with 34 persons aboard before dawn today in swampy woodlands near here.
"There will not be any survivors," said Deputy Sheriff H. G. RATCLIFF.
Seventeen bodies had been recovered late this morning.
Reporters on the scene said the big plane appeared to have exploded in the air and debris and bodies were scattered over an area of 20 acres.
The four-engine ship, making one of two substitute flights carrying vacation-bound passengers originally booked on a canceled jet flight, struck earth 2 1/2 miles southwest of Bolivia, a hamlet 25 miles southwest of Wilmington.
The other substitute plane, an Electra turbo-prop plane, reached Miami safely with 76 passengers and crew members.
The plane that crashed carried 29 passengers and a crew of five.
Its passengers included retired Navy Vice Adm. EDWARD ORRICK McDONNELL, who held a Congressional Medal of Honor and numerous other decorations for World War II service. He commanded an aircraft carrier in the Pacific.
Most of the passengers were Easterners, bound for vacations at Florida's sunny resorts.
The plane had been flying through rainy weather.
The watch on the wrist of a crew member found in the cockpit was stopped at 2:45 a.m., indicating that the crash occurred some 14 minutes after the pilot reported in by radio. He indicated no trouble at that time.
The possibility that passengers were aware of trouble before the crash was seen in the fact that a number of victims were clad in Mae West life preservers. The life preservers on some had been inflated.
A piece of the wing and most of the ripped fuselage fell in a field, while the cockpit struck in woods 50 yards away.
The plane crashed on the small farm of RICHARD RANDOLPH. His wife, LETZIE, was awakened by the noise and she awakened her husband.
"We heard an engine going chug-a-chug," he said, "like it was cutting in and out. Then it sounded like tin doors and windows ripping off. Then there was a big boom like dynamite."
RANDOLPH arose and looked out the window. He could see nothing but a small flame which soon went out. He returned to bed.
Early this morning their small son, McARTHUR, went to the field to see what happened and found the plane. The Negro farmer drove to Bolivia, the nearest phone and an operator connected him with the New Hanover airport at Wilmington. He then waited in Bolivia until highway patrolmen arrived about 7:30 a.m., and guided them to the scene.



National Airlines 1960 Crash

I was an airline stewardess on Flight 601, a Boeing 707 jet when we were waiting in line to take off, the weather was bad, freezing cold and had snowed earlier in the day, the windshield cracked, so we taxied back to our boarding area for our plane to be replaced. They replaced it with 2 planes a Lockheed Electra and a DC-6 B. The crew members got together and flipped coins to see who was going on which plane. I got the DC-6B, but I asked one of the girls who got the Electra if I could take it back because I had a date and she said sure and I got the Electra prop-jet. A few months before in November 16, 1959, I was in the crew room when one of the girls said she was 3 months pregnant and this was her last flight. In those days you could not be married or pregnant. She asked if I would switch flights with her because her husband owned the catering business in Tampa. The flight was taking off from Miami to New Orleans with a stop in Tampa. Her husband was going to meet her at the flight while he was catering the plane, It was a DC-7B and there was also a bomb put in someone's luggage and that crashed over the Gulf on Mexico. I got lucky twice.

Case aspects in need of clarification

Julian Frank certainly had a suspect background - being investigated for financial
fraud by both the NY City District Attorney's Office and the NY attorneys
disciplinary agency. Did the FBI conclusively determine the identity of the remains
as those of Mr. Frank, given the damage to the body in this era before DNA?
Julian Frank was apparently a very smart ruthless and devious man and cer-
tainly it would seem possible that an unknown person could have been duped
to board that flight as Mr. Frank, especially in light of a prior National flight
two months before suspected of being blown up over the Gulf of Mexico with one of the victims

heavily insured and not the person identified on the flight manifest - both
persons had criminal records and had been prison cell mates. Very similiar
situations to a mid seventies suspected faked death in a private jet crash in Mexico of
rogue Argentinian financier David Gravier.


I have been to the site of the crash and have spoken to the owner of the property about that night. He was a child at the time and remembers his parents being very excited that night about the incident. Does anyone else find it funny that they heard all the noise, looked out and saw the fire etc. and then went back to bed????? Strange to say the least. The crash site is about 100 yards off of the southbound lane of HWY 17 by Bolivia, N.C. near Randolph Rd.

National Airlines 1960 Crash


I am so sorry for your loss. I have been researching airline disasters for over 20 years. As an aircrew member of radar reconnaissance aircraft in the U.S. Navy, I have been in a number of close calls myself. In addition to othr material, I had a CD of New York Times pages from 1949-2008 and would do some research from that source. I was very interested in the Bolivia crash, as it was one of the first domestic airline brought down by a bomb.

Once again, please accept my condolences and please feel free to respond.

Greg Eichelberger

National Airlines 1960 Crash

Dear Mr. Eichelberger: I would be very interested in speaking with you. My parents were on that plane and I have done a lot of research on this. I was 5 yrs. old at the time. I did not know it was a bomb until I was over 45 years old! Imagine the shock. Thank you. Linda

Bolivia, North Carolina Crash, 1960

The cause of this disaster was a dynamite explosion which was detonated by means of dry cell batteries. The explosion occurred near the right of seat row 7.
During the recovery, it was discovered that the remains of one passenger, Julian A. Frank, a lawyer from New York City, were missing from the accident site. His body was eventually found sixteen miles away at a place called Snow's Marsh west of the Cape Fear River.
While autopsies of the crew and remaining passengers showed that all had died due to crash forces, Frank's autopsy showed that he had been fatally injured by a dynamite explosion originating either in his lap or (more likely) immediately under his seat.
A number of wires and metal fragments identified as parts of a bomb were found to have embedded themselves in his body, mainly in the arms and legs. Extensive searches of the aircraft fuselage revealed bone and bomb fragments surrounding the seat which had been assigned to Frank on boarding.
Investigators suspected that Frank had taken the bomb aboard the aircraft willingly, and that the bombing was therefore a murder-suicide.